Giants Rookie Enjoyed ‘One of His Best Outings’ vs. Commanders

Evan Neal

Getty One of the Giants' top rookies showed up big vs. the Commanders.

A 20-20 tie was the ultimate damp squib when the New York Giants hosted the Washington Commanders in Week 13. It was supposed to be a crunch game between two NFC East rivals vying for the playoffs, but the game ended with both teams more interested in avoiding defeat than snatching a late victory in overtime.

The stalemate stalled momentum for both teams, with the Giants now having gone three-straight games without a win. It’s the wrong time of the season to hit the wall, but there’s still reason for optimism, especially from one of the Giants’ top draft picks.

This headline rookie caught the eye against Washington, enjoying “one of his best outings” of the season.

Returning Rookie Stood Strong

Evan Neal didn’t exactly face the ideal opponent in his return from injury. The Commanders boast one of the more talented defensive lines in the NFL, even with edge-rusher Chase Young on the shelf.

Neal slotted back in at right tackle after missing four games with an MCL injury, and the seventh-overall pick in the 2022 draft stood strong, according to Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus: “Giants rookie right tackle Evan Neal played all game and held up relatively well against an imposing defensive front. Neal allowed a pressure rate of just 2.9% in one of his best outings of the year.”

Some of Neal’s best moments in pass-protection were highlighted by Nick Falato of SB Nation’s Big Blue View:

What’s impressive about these plays is how Neal shifted seamlessly between protecting the edge and working the inside of the Commanders’ defensive front. He wasn’t always in direct competition against Commanders’ sack leader Montez Sweat, but Neal frequently slid over to combat defensive tackle Daron Payne(94), who’s playing at a Pro-Bowl level this season.

Neal also drove Sweat off the ball to help spring Saquon Barkley for the Giants’ first touchdown:

Neal’s solid performance was a necessary boost for a first-round pick who has sometimes struggles to live up to his draft billing. Neal has allowed five sacks and committed a pair of pair penalties on 458 snaps, per numbers from PFF.

Making the switch to right tackle hasn’t always been a comfortable fit for the former Alabama standout. The Giants had no need to use Neal in his more natural left tackle spot, where 2020 fourth-overall pick Andrew Thomas has become a true anchor.

Thomas is dominating this season, forcing Neal to try and keep pace. It’s been an uphill slog, but there are growing signs Neal is starting to make the grade.

First-Round Picks Confirm Promising Future for Giants

The plan has always been for Neal and Thomas to mature as bookend offensive tackles, a tandem that will be the envy of the rest of the league. There’s still a ways to go, but the Giants at least have the pieces in place to finish building a winning foundation.

Those pieces aren’t just along the O-line. There’s also young and cost-effective talent at the edges of the front seven, thanks to Neal’s fellow first-round pick, pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Like Neal, Thibodeaux has been improving each week, with the fifth-overall pick delivering his own breakout performance in Week 12 against another NFC East rival, the Dallas Cowboys.

As Alex Wilson of Empire Sports Media put it, the Giants already possess potentially dominant double acts on both sides of the line of scrimmage:

Success in the NFL begins within the trenches, exactly where these Giants are strongest. That strength must continue if a rebuilding team is going to arrest its recent mimi slump and make the playoffs ahead of schedule.

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